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Optimal Hell Runs Guide
A guide for getting To Hell and Back regardless of what the game generates for you.
Hi, you may know me from the variousvideos I post about Spelunky on YouTube under the moniker of IGIPNP. I'm here to distill my months of on and off playing of Spelunky into a detailed yet concise guide for how to best make it To Hell and Back no matter what is randomly generated by the game for you. While I will go over many details in this game, for the things I skip or gloss over, you can take a look at the excellent Spelunky wiki[spelunky.wikia.com].
A Note to Players of the Original Spelunky
If you're just coming in from that version[spelunkyworld.com], bear in mind that this version of Spelunky has both added and removed features compared to the original. You will be able to use some knowledge from that version so that you don't have to start completely from scratch, but there are also many new things you have to learn, as well as some old habits you have to forget.
There are three specific items that greatly increase your chances of both making it to Hell and surviving throughout it. These are the Shotgun, Jetpack, and Kapala.
While not the most powerful (that would be either the Scepter or Plasma Cannon), this weapon is the overall best to have throughout the game. Unlike many other games' shotguns, Spelunky's shotgun has a pretty great range to it, allowing you to hit targets far away, safe from the danger that comes from using the short range whip or almost any other weapon. Additionally, the pellet spread is not that annoying when you realize it can be used to hit enemies that are above or below the immediate horizontal line of fire, which is not possible with any other weapon in the game (if you exclude stuff like splash damage and the potential for the boomerang to fall downward after a throw). Perhaps the best part about the awesome weapon is that it's actually fairly plentiful. It's not that common as an item in shops or crates, but shopkeepers can serve as an endless supply of them if you anger them. More on that in a bit.
By far the best item to aid your navigation (especially if you want to cross large gaps or travel upward without the need for climbing or ropes) with little downside. However, befitting its nature as an extremely useful item, it's somewhat rare. There are only three methods, all uncommon, by which you can get the jetpack:
Find it in a store - While still rare, this is the most likely place you'll find a jetpack for your current run. Individual shops, especially specialty shops (those with a magnifying glass sign by their entrance), can house them, though your real best chance of finding this item is looking in the Black Market. The many shops there increase (but do not guarantee) the chances of finding this valuable item.
Psychic Presence - If you're lucky, one of the level feelings in the Ice Caves will inform you of a psychic presence. This means that a lone Alien Lord can be found in a spaceship embedded in the rock. If you can break your way into the ship and kill the giant alien inside, you will always find a jetpack buried in a rock immediately behind it.
Luck - This last method is the rarest, but you may still catch a break from time to time. There are various miscellaneous means to get a jetpack, but you shouldn't rely on these as a regular source of them. Examples include: finding one in a crate as a rare drop, finding one buried in the ground and only visible with the Udjat Eye or Spectacles, and earning it from early sacrificing after already collecting many other pieces of equipment beforehand.
The third and final item of the trifecta is only obtainable through one means: sacrificing. I'll get into more detail about sacrificing and altars a bit later in this guide, but for now just know that the Kapala is extremely useful for earning health.
Other Notable Items
While the trifecta is definitely something you should always attempt to accumulate, it's definitely not always possible. As such, here are some other noteworthy items that can be useful depending on what situation you find yourself in.
Common and plentiful throughout the game, but still incredibly useful in a variety of circumstances. If you're not already carrying something else, you should at least endeavor to carry a rock. Reason is, they're indestructible unless dropped beyond reach, dropped into lava, or crushed by some means. Perhaps the most common use of the lowly rock is to safely trigger arrow traps when dropped below or thrown above. Other items can also trigger arrow traps if need be, but are fragile (skulls), dangerous (arrows), or less common (broken arrows, small critters, and other held items). The rock remains a fairly safe and repeatable means to trigger traps without harm. Rocks are also fairly useful as things to throw at flying or charging enemies to give you a little more breathing room.
While the machete is not an amazing item you should keep at all times, it can be very handy if you stumble across one in the Mines. Spider webs seem most common and most annoying there, and the machete can cut through them quickly, granting you some precious seconds against the ghost every time you cut through a web you'd normally have to jump through.
Ah yes. If you're not experienced with this item, chances are you fiddled around with it once and died and then never really thought to use it again. The teleporter is quite possibly the item with the highest risk of injury or death since it's very easy to teleport into solid terrain with it, but it can also be quite useful if you can get the hang of its limitations (roughly 4-8 tiles traveled in the direction of motion, with up to 3 tiles upward to land on solid ground if teleporting into terrain). In my opinion, other than for speedrunning it's most useful in the Mines before you're likely to have a good supply of bombs. It is common for treasure or crates to be in areas where you'd normally have to use one or more bombs or ropes to access, but diligent of the teleporter can help you avoid wasting those supplies. It already can be quite dangerous to use by the time of the Jungle unless you're really experienced with it, but even novices can reasonably use the teleporter in the Mines if aiming for mostly clear space.
The compass is a fairly common item, but it's not super important to get early unless you're looking to exit levels quickly. Normally, every exit in the Mines and Jungle can be found simply be traveling to every area not blocked off by terrain that you'd have to dig or bomb through. Eventually you should find the exit in some area towards the bottom of the level. However, the compass really becomes valuable in the Ice Caves, where traveling through levels requires different strategies. Having climbing gloves, a jetpack, or even just lots of ropes means you don't have to worry about getting the compass that much, but otherwise you should try to find, buy, or steal one so you have a decent idea of where you should travel to safely get to the exit of an Ice Caves level.
This weapon is something that you can throw repeatedly, and it has the same "indestructible" properties like the more common rock. The main advantage it has over the mere rock is that, at least when throwing perfectly horizontally, it'll try to return to your hands. Because of this, it can also be guided downwards if you drop from your initial height after throwing it. The boomerang should definitely be replaced by a shotgun if you can get your hands on one, but otherwise it's common in the Jungle and decent as a weapon if you can't get anything better.
Uncommon but not rare, the cape is quite useful for slowly gliding downwards, which allows you cross long gaps and safely land on stationary spikes (one benefit that the jetpack doesn't have). I'd still recommend you to take the jetpack over the cape if possible, but the cape is still worth having and using if you can't get the jetpack.
Allows you to stick to walls in order to slow falls or climb upwards. Some people hate this item for its tendency to get you stuck even when you don't want to be, but I personally think the benefits outweigh the occasional annoyances it can cause. The gloves can be especially useful when paired with the cape, because the combination of those two items is similar to the functionality of the jetpack, just quite a bit slower though also less rare.
Allows you to throw items with much stronger velocity and with no arcing. The range of rocks and corpses without the mitt is pretty small, but with it they can match the range of a shotgun blast. Quite handy, and there's basically no downside to this item unless you absolutely love arcing projectiles.
One of the most unique items in the entire game, because its functionality and effectiveness depends on the exact circumstances of the level. In a normal level, it's not too great because it merely harmlessly stuns or aggravates most enemies. There's not really an incentive to avoid killing enemies, so stunning them doesn't matter much unless you're trying to get some living creature to an altar. However, it can be quite a bit more useful in special levels. In any level with a large number of "undead" or "unholy" enemies (regular bats are included in that category by the way), the camera is pretty decent because it'll instantly kill any undead/unholy enemy caught in its snap radius. (This excludes the ghost, but the camera does technically stun the ghost if used on it.) The camera becomes most useful in dark levels, as each snap will briefly light up the entire screen, providing more light than any other thing in the game.
This is a pretty interesting weapon. On one hand, the effective range is so short that you may have to put yourself in quite a bit of danger to effectively use it. On the other hand, it can kill even faster than the shotgun, and is equally effective against lowly enemies and even tougher stuff like Anubis. You'll have to use your judgement on whether or not you think it's worth carrying this over a shotgun or some other item, but it is worth carrying if you can't find anything else worthwhile.
The Path of Blood: Sacrificing
If you're going to want to make it to and through Hell, you're probably going to have to get your hands dirty to give you an edge over those who don't. There are two parts to this: sacrificing and robbery. Let's talk about sacrificing now.
Throughout your time in Spelunky, you may notice areas with blood-stained altars and a menacing mural of a female goddess on the wall above. These allow you to sacrifice living and dead creatures for various bonuses. Every humanoid enemy in the game, as well as some non-human creatures, can be placed on an altar to disappear in a spray of blood, helping you work your way up to one of the rewards from Kali. Different sacrifices are worth different amounts of "favor", an invisible stat that determines what reward you'll get when you reach certain milestones. Whatever favor value you may see on a wiki or elsewhere, I'm simply going to use a relativistic shorthand. The first reward for sacrificing requires precisely one living damsel's worth of favor, so I'll use one living damsel as my standard favor unit (e.g. 1 Damsel). I'll mention what is and is not worth sacrificing in the sections dealing with the enemies for each area, but for now, just know that damsels are the thing I consider most worth sacrificing, as they're worth a lot of favor and are generally much safer to handle than many other things you can sacrifice.
There are three levels of rewards from sacrificing:
The first reward requires 1 Damsel and grants you a random piece of equipment from a finite selection. Roughly half of the selection is a mediocre reward, but the other half is pretty worthwhile and can help you out in the early game. Fortunately, this random piece of equipment will never be a duplicate of something you already have, and if you've managed to collect enough equipment before reaching this reward tier, you may even be rewarded with a jetpack or box of bombs.
The second reward requires 2 Damsels total and grants you the otherwise inaccessible Kapala every time. This item is absolutely excellent for gaining health, even obscene amounts of it, if you can injure or kill many enemies and collect their blood drops. A shotgun is ideal for this purpose, but you can also use the freeze ray and sacrificing to squeeze out more blood from corpses.
The third and final reward requires 4 Damsels total and grants you a significant health boost. While useful in general, it is most useful if you can reach this level of favor after sacrificing the Ankh for the Hedjet. That way, you won't waste the boost when you need to die as part of the steps to the City of Gold and Hell.
It is also worth mentioning that Spikes Shoes can significantly impact your ability to sacrifice. On one hand, spike shoes are strong enough to kill many enemies with one jump attack, allowing you to easily have more corpses for sacrificing. On the other hand, jump attacks without spike shoes are one method for stunning enemies, and stunned enemies are worth twice as much as dead enemies. I'll leave it up to you to determine which you prefer, but personally I feel the loss of a stun attack is outweighed by the benefit of having many more corpses to sacrifice. (Another noteworthy thing about Spike Shoes is that it allows you to farm less blood from enemies. Repeatedly jumping on strong enemies without spike shoes generates a lot of blood, though of course this can always be offset by a lot of killing and drawing blood from sacrifices.)
The Path of Blood: Robbery
For every run (aka every reset to 1-1 or the level you used a shortcut to), shopkeepers are initially non-aggressive. They'll let you inside their stores so that you can exchange your collected treasure for valuable supplies, weapons, or equipment. You can even sell idols to friendly shopkeepers if you don't want to drag them all the way to the exit.
However, as you may have found out, you can also steal from shops or outright kill shopkeepers too. Any and all purposeful or accidental aggressive actions you can commit against shopkeepers, I call robbery, because it more or less results in the same things. In order to best prepare yourself for Hell and the challenges leading up to it, I recommend that you rob stores and kill shopkeepers as often as is reasonable, and this includes ravaging the entirety of the Black Market as that will help you more than anything else. While you can peacefully buy various things, it's very unlikely that you'll be able to buy all the supplies that can help you along the road to Hell. A strategy of violence is not without drawbacks though, as all shopkeepers will become aggressive after robbery, and you'll also have a shopkeeper guarding the exit of every non-boss level starting from the level after you first perform robbery.
Because you always get a grace period of non-aggressiveness when starting a run, part of the strategy is determining when you should start robbing stores. The kind of Catch-22 about robbery is that it's easiest to do when you already have a lot of equipment and supplies, but at the same time you're unlikely to have all that much equipment or supplies until you start robbing. So what should you do? I recommend that you decide on-the-fly while playing through the levels randomly generated for you. If a shop has some tantalizing items, use bombs or things found in crates or even weapons inside that store to try to rob it. If a shop only has one high-value item or only low value items (e.g. any mix of compass, ropes, and bags containing three bombs), consider buying an item or just skipping the shop entirely. Being able to ambush shopkeepers when you first start robbing is a valuable advantage, and you don't necessarily want to give that up if the reward is meager. Regardless, you should definitely at least start robbing when you get to the Black Market, as the Ankh and many other items are worth the risk involved.
If you're lucky enough to get one, there are three specific held items that make the first robbery of the run easy. (It doesn't matter whether you find these in a crate or inside the store, and even items on display in stores can be used to attack with.) In order of decreasing effectiveness, these are the Freeze ray, the Shotgun, and the Machete. With the first, simply lure the shopkeeper out from behind his counter, then freeze him and either use a jump or whip attack to kill him. With either of the other two, repeated attacks with it can stunlock the shopkeeper until he takes enough damage to die. All three items provide ample opportunity to rob a shop without the risk of injury. Even if you don't see anything else interesting in the shop, it can still be worth robbing with one of these methods to get a free shotgun as part of the trifecta.
The Mines: Enemies
Just about all of the enemies in this first area are easy to handle with whipping, thrown items, and jump attacks. There are three exceptions.
Scorpions can rapidly leap over distance and take more damage than almost any other enemy in this area. It is best to try to kill them from above / from a distance, or ignore them entirely. A scorpion will not attack you if it's not facing you, so you can use that to slip by them if you need to.
Cobras are like regular snakes but also spit venom in an arc away from themselves. It is generally not advisable to leave them unkilled if they can spit down onto an area you have to pass through, as there's a decent chance they will hit you if you spend any time hanging around that area. Like scorpions, they can't really harm you if not facing you, so you can use to sneak up on them for a whip attack. They're also fragile, so throwing something is enough to dispatch of them.
Giant Spiders are docile so long as you don't pass under them. As such, the easiest way to kill them is to throw a bomb in one of the two webs immediately beneath them. If you aggro them, they can be quite tough to kill unless you have a ranged weapon or can lead them into jumping on some spikes. If you can acquire them, Spike Shoes are a decent means to quickly kill Giant Spiders without needing to spend a bomb.
There are really only two things worth regularly sacrificing in the Mines: damsels and dead shopkeepers. As always, living damsels are worth a lot of favor and are easy to handle since they will never harm you. (They make decent meat shields too if you get hit by a wayward arrow trap.) Dead damsels (and all corpses, in fact) are worth half the favor value of their living equivalent, and even then they can still be worth sacrificing because of the damsel's excellent value. It is extremely unlikely that you'll be able to sacrifice a stunned shopkeeper, so don't even bother trying. Dead shopkeepers are worth roughly 3/8ths of a living Damsel or 3/4ths of a dead Damsel, so they're decent sacrifices if an altar is nearby. Don't go out of your way for shopkeeper sacrifices though, as living damsel ones should be far easier and faster.
Both living and dead cavemen are bad sacrifices, worth 1/4th and 1/8th of a Damsel respectively. They tend to be somewhat rare in the Mines, making it such that the effort of getting them to the altar is probably not worth it. If you can get a stunned scorpion onto an altar before they recover, they're actually pretty decent sacrifices. Scorpions are worth 1/2 a living Damsel or precisely equal to one dead Damsel. However, they leave no corpses behind when killed and it can be difficult to get them to an altar in time without having to kill them, so you probably won't sacrifice them all that often. If you come across a hired hand / slave in a level, they're also pretty decent sacrifices as their living and dead values are exactly equal to those of a Damsel. This is true regardless of whether you find them in the Mines or any other area in the game.
The Mines: To Paste or Not to Paste?
The Mines will most commonly be the place where you have to make the decision whether or not to use Paste for this run. That may seem like a silly thought since many players consider Paste to be a very useful item, perhaps even necessary, but that's technically not true. Paste is very useful, but there are some advanced tricks that cannot be pulled off with Paste, or that have to use alternative means to accomplish them. Two advantages that regular bombs have over sticky bombs is that they can be dropped down shafts and they can be bounced off of floors, ceilings, and walls. There are a number of times where you may want these capabilities, but sticky bombs prevent it from being so easy. (One alternative to all that is sticking a bomb to a corpse, and then throwing or dropping the corpse how you wish to achieve unsticky physics.) On the flip side, choosing to keep regular bombs has a major disadvantage: If you want to blow up a wall or ceiling above you, you'll likely have to rely on "cooking" a bomb. Cooking a bomb can be described as dropping a bomb before picking it up and throwing it after some time. Of course, the obvious difficulty with this is that too early of a throw will likely cause the bomb to bounce and fail to explode the target, while too late of a throw will likely injure or outright kill you. Regular bombs may be more versatile, but they're also riskier too, which makes most players prefer the ease of sticky bombs instead.
However, you might want to get some practice in with unsticky bombs sometimes. There likely will be runs where you won't be able to find a Giant Spider or Paste before the end of the Mines, and if that happens you're quite unlikely to find Paste at any point after. You'll be stuck with regular bombs, and if you don't know how to make the most out of them, that may cause you problems.
The Mines: Idols
It is worth keeping in mind that treasure, while representative of your score, is not really worth much in-game beyond that. If you're aiming for a successful Hell run, don't feel pressure to put yourself at great risk just to get a few extra pieces of treasure. If you don't plan to buy anything, it doesn't even matter besides showing off (or going for the Big Money achievement). I feel this caveat is best applied to Idols in the Mines, as the boulder trap with them can be a pain. It's not too hard to dodge to boulder, but the havoc they can wreak on levels is severe. If there's even a chance of a boulder crushing a shop, altar, or either item necessary for the Udjat Eye, you should just level Mines Idols alone.
The Mines: Level Feelings
Level feelings are levels with special features somewhere inside of them. Throughout the game, they're almost always signified by a short piece of text at the beginning of the level. Additionally, it is possible for multiple level feelings to happen for one level.
There are only three in The Mines:
Snake Pit levels have a deep vertical shaft filled with a mix of snakes, arrows traps, treasure, and crates. Dropping straight down is generally suicide, and you're best off either trying to cling to openings on either side or using a rope or two to get down. You are guaranteed to find a Mattock (read: pickaxe) at the bottom of the pit, specifically buried right below the left tile of the floating rock platform. In order to get out of the pit, you will likely have to either use the mattock to dig our or some ropes to climb out.
Crawling Skin levels spawn many more spider enemies than usual as well as web balls that can contain various things. Additionally, somewhere in the level you should find four Giant Spiders hanging around. It is not advisable to engage the Giant Spiders unless you have a good weapon or need to for some reason (e.g. Paste).
Dark levels significantly reduce your visibility, though they also start you with one torch. Beyond not being able to see well, Dark Mines levels are not too different from regular levels, though you'll also notice the occasional lighted arrow trap, hanging lantern, and valuable flying golden scarab treasure. It is also worth noting that only one Dark level feeling can spawn per area. Things to help your visibility include: collecting the Spectacles, lighting stationary wall torches, firing a Shotgun, and snapping a Camera.
The Mines: City of Gold Steps
In order to get to Hell, you first have to get to the City of Gold. Each of the four main areas of the game require you to fulfill at least one step towards the City. In the Mines, you have to find a big golden Key and bring it to a gold-trimmed treasure Chest. Once you do that, you'll acquire the Udjat Eye, which is helpful for seeing buried treasure and items, as well as being useful for the second step towards the City in the Jungle. Both the key and the relevant treasure chest always spawn on the same level, and that level will always be 1-2, 1-3, or 1-4. (That means you don't have to worry about hunting for those items on 1-1. Also, once you get the Eye you don't have to bother looking for it in any Mines level beyond it. If you are certain you couldn't find the key/chest on 1-2 or 1-3, they should always spawn on 1-4 if your assessment was correct.)
Even if you are able to avoid having a boulder trap crush an altar or shop, it is still risky to trigger a boulder if you've not yet acquired the Eye. Either or both of the items necessary to get the Eye can be behind terrain that you need to dig or bomb through, and the boulder can crush one or both if you're not careful, which ruins your chances of getting the Eye. If the Udjat Eye is present in a Snake Pit level, it seems very common for one or both of the unlocking items to be inside the pit. If the Eye is present in a Crawling Skin level, sometimes one or both of the unlocking items will require you to travel near the four Giant Spiders, putting you in a lot of danger. If you get a Dark level feeling before obtaining the Eye, you may have to thoroughly search the level despite the limited visibility, as it is possible for the Eye to spawn on such a level.
The Jungle: Enemies
The Jungle is quite a leap in difficulty compared to the Mines, and basically every enemy or trap in it can ruin your day. Let's focus on the most notable ones though.
Tiki men can be big pain, especially because of their boomerangs and especially because they may never face away from you depending on what terrain they are traveling on. They are best handed from a far distance or from above. If you can't outright kill a tiki man in one attack, simply injuring them will cause them to be stunned and loss their boomerang. If you're quick, you can pick up their boomerang and use it against them or even just throw their body away from you to make them less of a threat.
Mantraps (read: carnivorous plants) are instant kills if you collide with them when they are not stunned. Unlike in the original Spelunky, Spike Shoes DO NOT help you kill them from above. They are best killed from a distance or outright avoided. If you must pass by them, carefully whipping them or throwing a corpse at them will temporarily stun them.
Giant Frogs are unlikely to harm you directly as they are quite slow, but they can spawn an infinite amount of smaller and more annoying frogs. If you want Spring Shoes, Giants Frogs sometimes drop them upon death.
Old Bitey (read: giant piranha) is an uncommon enemy. I advise you to never tackle it while on the path to Hell, as the risk is not the worth the reward.
Queen Bee is a somewhat common enemy and always surrounds herself with many smaller and more fragile bees. She always drops Royal Jelly (an item that gives 4 health) upon death, and thus is generally worth fighting, even if you have to take some damage in the process.
Vampires are quite a bit more challenging than regular bats, but can still be fairly easy to handle with either a shotgun or boomerang. Stunning them with a whip or jump attack before bombing is also a decent tactic, as is using Spike Shoes to kill them in two jumps. If you don't already have a Cape or Jetpack, they are worth killing for their guaranteed drop of a Cape.
Other than the multi-area creatures of damsels, hired hands, and shopkeepers, there is not much worth sacrificing in the Jungle. Vampires and mantraps are worth the same low favor as cavemen and tiki men, yet are far more of a hassle to safely sacrifice while stunned. Tiki men, while worth exactly the same favor as the cavemen from the Mines (who also show up here from time to time), tend to be far more common in the Jungle, and thus both stunned bodies and corpses can be worth sacrificing if there is an altar nearby. If you can make it to the Haunted Castle, the guaranteed altar there is great for sacrificing the high favor value Black Knight (you're likely only going to be able to sacrifice his corpse though, worth 1/2 a Damsel) as well as the myriad of other humanoid enemies there.
The Jungle: Idols
The main idol trap in the Jungle is also probably the easiest to deal with in the entire game, and certainly far easier and less dangerous than the trap in the Mines. Normal Jungle idols will be found placed atop a stone bridge above a pool of water (sometimes containing one or more piranha). Since the bridge collapses starting from its ends, it is easy to grab the idol and quickly jump to either side, safe and a little richer. If you fall in the water, you'll have to use a bomb or rope to get out, or the climbing gloves or jetpack if you have that. If you feel you can juggle this idol alongside any other held item you may have, you can always go for this idol.
A special idol can be found in Restless Dead levels. This idol will always be enclosed in a stone area with push blocks at either entrance, as well as some treasure or crates at any or all of the four corners. Picking up this idol will immediately spawn a ghost that's separate from the ghost that appears when the level time limit runs out. Due to the danger of the ghost, it is only recommended to pick up this valuable idol when you know you can evade one or more ghosts. Picking it up right before you plan to leave a level is a good strategy, as the ghost can't catch you if you keep moving.
There is one last idol "trap" in the Jungle. If you dare to face Old Bitey, killing him will have him drop a regular golden idol. (However, if you happen to face him on a Restless Dead level, it'll be the special and more valuable crystal one instead.) Since Jungle idols are otherwise easy to get and since fighting him can take quite some time, I advise you to never bother with Old Bitey or his treasure.
The Jungle: Level Feelings
There are eight in the Jungle, and once again multiple can be combined into a single level:
Restless Dead levels have many undead enemies in them, including many false bone pile skeletons and special enemies like jiang shi and vampires. As noted before, vampires are an excellent source of a Cape if you want one. These levels are also noteworthy for housing a special crystal skull idol, a tombstone labeled with ASH that has a Shotgun buried under it, and possibly having a buried entrance to the Haunted Castle.
Haunted Castle levels are very similar to Restless Dead levels, and in fact they are closely connected. The only way into a Haunted Castle level is by bombing or digging the terrain underneath the crowned skeleton underneath the tombstone marked with a crown within a Restless Dead level as unlike some other level feelings they will never generate randomly by themselves. These special levels house a guaranteed altar, coffin, and spawn of the Black Knight character who always carries a near-indestructible Shield.
Black Market levels also require you to seek out a hidden entrance like the Haunted Castle. More on this in the City of Gold step, but they are noteworthy for containing many shops and uniquely offering the Ankh.
Rushing Water levels are much like normal Jungle levels, but may contain more piranha than usual in small pools of water and certainly contain tons of them (as well as Old Bitey) in a big pool of water at the bottom of the level. Angry shopkeepers can often end up bouncing around the big pool at the bottom, which provides further incentive to avoid it if other things didn't convince you already.
Worm levels contain a mix of enemies from this area and enemies unique to the intestines of the Worm. In the Jungle, they can only be entered from 2-1 by placing both yourself and a damsel on sweaty, sticky pink bulb of a tongue somewhere in the level. Worm levels are notable for being much longer than usual, for containing the powerful Crysknife, and for skipping to the fourth level of the area when you exit.
Bee Hive levels do not start with a text warning, but a characteristic buzzing sound alongside some unique beehive terrain will quickly tell you it is present. These are more or less normal Jungle levels with a number of small bee spawns and one spawn of the Queen Bee containing Royal Jelly.
Tiki Village levels also do not start with a text warning, but a large amount of wood and a congregation of tiki men will quickly tell you it is present. Other than a potentially difficult portion to pass through, nothing else is that special about these levels (although you can see a magma man outside of the Temple if a cooking pot is damaged).
Dark levels in the Jungle are similar to those in the Mines, though there are three additional changes. Tiki spike traps have lights, tiki men carry extra torches instead of boomerangs, and water will snuff out your torch upon contact. Wet torches can be relit on stationary wall torches if necessary.
The Jungle: City of Gold Steps
This step centers around finding and entering the hidden Black Market. The entrance to it is buried in the terrain somewhere in 2-1, 2-2 or 2-3 (but never 2-4). While it is not strictly necessary to have the Udjat Eye to find the entrance (especially because decorations around area exits and entrances make them take up more than one tile), it is helpful. Since you have no idea whether or not the entrance will be totally buried or partially exposed, always trying to acquire the Udjat Eye anyways is a good strategy. If the entrance is present in the current level, the Eye will occasionally emit a blue pulse and make a distinct sound. The more often the eye pulses, the closer you are. When the pulsing is nearly constant, bombing or digging nearby should reveal the entrance, which will also cause a distinct "secret found" sound to play. (Make sure not to confuse this entrance with the Haunted Castle entrance in a Restless Dead level though. The "secret found" sound is the same for both, though the Haunted Castle entrance has a fixed position relative to the crown tombstone unlike the Black Market entrance.) It is possible for a bomb frog to reveal the entrance, though you shouldn't count on it.
Once you're actually inside the Black Market, you'll notice a variety of items and shops. If you've ♥♥♥♥♥♥ off any shopkeepers, you should prepare for the entire level to explode into an orgy of frenzy and buckshot. (And if you haven't, now is a great time to start robbing to prepare for Hell.) A special shop is guaranteed to spawn towards the lower righthand corner of the market, and it only contains a shopkeeper and a $50,000 Ankh. You may just buy the Ankh for this step if you really feel the need to, but I definitely recommend robbing the entire market and the Ankh store while you're at it. Either way, the Ankh is necessary for the third step towards the City.
It is possible for a Black Market to also have Restless Dead and/or Dark level feelings, but since the majority of the market level has fixed terrain, it doesn't really make that much of a difference. That said, levels with the market entrance that suffer a level feeling can introduce some complications. As noted before, make sure you don't confuse a Haunted Castle entrance for the Black Market entrance if it's in a Restless Dead level. In Rushing Water levels, the market entrance will never be found in the sparse terrain that generates at the bottom of the big pool though it can generate just below the surface of the water in the terrain that's horizontally in line with the level exit. Like with the Udjat Eye, if you've not yet found the market and enter a Dark level, you should try to explore as thoroughly as you can, as it is possible for it to be buried in terrain you can't see from far away.
The Ice Caves: Enemies
The Ice Caves are probably the easiest set of levels if you're properly equipped, but can still be quite challenging if you're not. Hopefully you've been following my instructions and at least ended up with a Compass and some Spike Shoes. Having the Climbing Gloves and a Cape or Jetpack helps a lot too. Robbing the Black Market should grant you most or all of these recommended items.
Basically every enemy unique to the Ice Caves is notable, but let's just talk about the normal ones:
Yetis are very common and can be deadly if not approached appropriately. Just like a shopkeeper, yetis can throw if you're too close, even chain-throwing you if you're in a bad spot. They're immune to whipping, so don't bother getting that close. Shot them from afar or jump on top of them.
Yeti King is a unique yeti that can roar to crash icicles around him, and he's usually accompanied by many smaller yetis too. He's best handled from a far distance, or by jumping on him with Spike Shoes (as he'll never drop icicles directly on top of himself).
Mammoths function like slow and dumb living Freeze Rays. Accordingly, they can drop that weapon upon death, similar to how the Giant Frog of the Jungle might drop Spring Shoes.
UFOs can shoot slow, terrain-destroying beams downwards, but are much more useful/dangerous as flying bombs. Injuring a UFO by any means will cause its Alien pilot to eject and for the ship to come crashing down and explode on contact. Be careful not to have them crash on you or an altar!
The Ice Caves are unique for being the best area in the entire game to sacrifice things. Multi-area creatures like damsels, hired hands, and shopkeepers remain good sacrifices, but the very common yetis also are worthwhile. Each one is only worth 1/2 a Damsel when alive and 1/4 of a Damsel when dead, but they're plentiful enough (and the terrain is easy enough to navigate) that you can quickly rack up some pretty significant favor. If an altar is present in an Ice Caves level, you should have no trouble sacrificing 2 - 4 or even more yetis in order to get a Kapala or even invigoration. (Remember that invigoration is best earned AFTER using the Ankh, as otherwise the health boost is wasted.) Once you've reached the invigoration reward, feel free to stop sacrificing as there are no further rewards / the requirements are too high to be reasonable. Sacrificing things for additional blood for your Kapala is fine though.
The Ice Caves: Idols
Like the Mines, the Ice Caves only features one type of idol trap. It's easier to deal with than the Mines trap, but harder than the Jungle trap. Caves idols will be suspended on fragile ice above a platform of spikes. If you have ropes, Climbing Gloves, a Cape, or a Jetpack, it is usually easy enough to safely pop in, grab the idol, and get out. Otherwise, you should probably avoid these idols so that you don't accidentally fall into the instant kill spikes.
The Ice Caves: Level Feelings
There are five in the Ice Caves, though unlike other areas none of them can be combined into a single level:
Wet Fur levels are much closer to "normal" levels in the Mines and Jungle compared to usual Ice Caves level, if you exclude the fact that they're packed with slippery and fragile ice. These contain the Yeti King as well as multiple UFOs and smaller yetis. If you are able to kill the Yeti King, he will drop items that are quite useful in the Caves, such as rope, a Compass, and Spike Shoes.
Psychic Presence levels were mentioned way back in the Trifecta section. These levels house a psychic beam blasting Alien Lord in a sealed ship. If you can work your way past the casing, turrets, and forcefield generators, killing the Alien Lord and bombing behind it will give you a guaranteed Jetpack, another item very useful in general but particularly useful in the Caves.
Independence Day levels only ever spawn on 3-4, but also always spawn on them. These levels can contain more UFOs and proximity mines than usual, and also always have an alien tower near the top of the level. If you can climb or fly into that tower, you can enter into the Mothership.
Mothership levels tend to be suicidally hard because they contain tough enemies and also the Plasma Cannon, the single most powerful weapon in the entire game. Unlike other levels, you progress from the bottom to the top, rather than top to bottom, which changes the dynamics of play quite a bit.
Worm levels contain a mix of enemies from this area and enemies unique to the intestines of the Worm. In the Ice Caves, they can only be entered from 3-1 by placing both yourself and a damsel on sweaty, sticky pink bulb of a tongue somewhere in the level. Worm levels are notable for being much longer than usual, for containing the powerful Crysknife, and for skipping to the fourth level of the area when you exit.
It is worth noting that Ice Caves levels will never generate with a Dark level feeling, as that would make it too hard to continue without falling into the abyss if you were underequipped.
The Ice Caves: City of Gold Steps
This step centers around finding the Blue Moai Head with an Ankh insert either in 3-2 or 3-3. Unlike the previous two steps, finding this is easy, because the head is big and stands out from the rest of the terrain. The hard part is actually keeping the Ankh from the Black Market up until now, making sure only to use it up on the level where you see the Moai. Dying via spikes, proximity mines, bombs, or the abyss are all acceptable methods for spending the Ankh and entering the Moai for the Hedjet.
It is worth noting that it is technically possibly to have the Moai spawn on 3-4, but it requires a bit of extra work. If you enter the Worm from 3-1 and complete it, you'll be booted out to a normal Independence Day 3-4. If you then enter and complete the Mothership, you'll be brought back to a different 3-4 that does contain the Moai. This allows you to take the Crysknife from the Worm into the City of Gold and beyond, though you'll likely miss out on the opportunity to sacrifice enough for invigoration.
The Temple: Enemies
It is arguable whether the Jungle or Temple is harder, though there's no question that the Temple is hard whether it is first or second place. Every enemy unique to the Temple is notable, so let's talk about them all:
Mummies are common and function like slow walking and slow shooting shotgun toters. Their flies are dangerous to be a target of, so they are best handled from a distance or above. Since even their turning is slow, you can easily drop a bomb while they are turned and run away before they target you. They also can fall off of ledges if you give them enough time, so that's one way to avoid confronting them if you have the patience.
Hawk men are similar to both cavemen and tiki men, though are also most similar to a shopkeeper without a shotgun. Their ability to sprint, jump, and throw leads them to be best ignored or just killed from a distance.
Anubis is a large, floating, scepter-wielding jackal enemy that deliberately seeks you out and tries to kill you with slow (but very dangerous) psychic blasts.
Scorpion flies are very much like their name, as they're scorpion enemies that can fly. Also like scorpions, they can take two normal hits, though they lose their wings and flying capability after the first. Similar to bees, they make a very distinct buzzing sound when they are nearby.
Croc men are basically hawk men with the ability to teleport. Their teleportation is very similar to players' ability to do that with the Teleporter item. However, just like with a held Teleporter, they can telefrag enemies and even you for an instant kill if you happen to be at their destination. Since they can be hard to kill, it is generally not advisable to fight them if you can avoid it. It also appears that they don't drop anything useful, so engaging them seems to be pure risk.
Magma men are commonly generated from standing pools of lava, and indiscriminately harm everything on contact. They're not particularly smart, though they can hop and bounce around and potentially hit you if you're in a narrow passageway. They're at their most dangerous when you're trying to jump or fly past lava, because them hitting you in mid-air basically guarantees that you will fall into the lava and instantly die.
Crush traps are more of a trap than an enemy as their name implies, but they do seem to be one of the more intelligent things within the Temple and may often cause your demise. When triggered by proximity, they will travel in a straight line in an attempt to crush you against the Temple's terrain. What makes them tough is that they actively seek you out rather than follow a predictable pattern, and they can easily kill you if you get in a claustrophobic space. If you have spare bombs or other explosives, it is advisable to use them against troubling crush traps as nothing else will hurt them.
Olmec is the normal final boss of the game, though is only the first if you intend to continue on to Hell. He's invulnerable to everything but lava, which is why you have to try to trick him into falling into the lava at the bottom of his Chamber.
The enemies you can sacrifice in the Temple are all generally worth a fair amount of favor, but it tends to be difficult to actually get to altars when they are present. All manner of terrain, environmental hazards, or nasty enemies can make it difficult to sacrifice here, so hopefully you've gotten whatever rewards you've wanted already by this point. As always, damsels, hired hands, and shopkeepers are worth sacrificing. Both hawk men and scorpion flies are worth the same amount of favor as a shopkeeper (and are more reasonable to sacrifice stunned too), though scorpion flies don't leave corpses when killed. Croc men are not worth fighting and it's uncommon for them to leave corpses behind anyway. Regular cavemen remain bad sacrifices, so just stick to hawk men for the most part if you really want to sacrifice enemies in this area.
The Temple: Idols
The most common type of idol in the Temples are those placed in seemingly open rooms. However, appearances are deceiving, as grabbing the idol without a means to dig or bomb your way out of the suddenly enclosed room will result in you being crushed by the spiked ceiling. These are the hardest idols to safely get since the Mines, though you don't have to worry about any boulders crushing altars or shops like there.
A less common type of idol appears in Prayers to Kali levels. These idols will always be paired with a damsel on a bridge suspended above a long vertical shaft similar to the Snake Pit of the Mines but with lava at the bottom. You can safely grab the damsel without issue, but grabbing the idol will instantly destroy the bridge (unlike the delayed trap in the Jungle) and start your fall down the shaft. Climbing gloves, a jetpack, or a bunch of ropes is recommended to safely get out of this pit, though you could also possibly bomb your way out from the openings on the sides. Though these idols appear in a different situation from the open room idols, both are worth the same amount.
The Temple: Level Feelings
There are only four in The Temple, and some of them can be combined into a single level:
Prayers to Kali levels feature a a vertical lava shaft topped with an idol and damsel, as mentioned above. Otherwise they are normal levels.
City of Gold levels are a reward for completing every step of the journey in each area, and the vast majority of terrain and traps release gold upon destruction. This is a very good place to collect a lot of treasure if you have bombs or other means to destroy terrain. Numerous mummies and golden scarabs are common sights too. While the City is a reward, it's still dangerous as crush traps, lava, and tiki spike traps are all still present, as well as one angry shopkeeper if you've committed robbery. The Book of the Dead and Anubis II can be found in the dead center of the level, though you need some method for breaking through the terrain to get to them.
Dark levels are hardest in the Temple, as crush traps, mummies, and hawk men become even more deadly than they were before. Lava, crush traps, magma men, and Anubis/Scepter psychic blasts all count as additional sources of light, but otherwise things remain the same as other types of dark levels.
Olmec's Chamber always appears as level 4-4, the regular final boss of the game. This level is mostly a flat surface housing the murderous and near invincible Olmec golden head, though it also contains numerous crates and treasure chests if you can reach the higher platforms.
The Temple: City of Gold Steps
The Temple includes the last few steps towards the City of Gold, as well as some additional steps to ultimately make it to Hell. On 4-1, you have to find and kill Anubis in order to have him drop his Scepter. The Scepter is a very powerful weapon, but you'll have to sacrifice it if you want to go to the City of Gold and Hell. Take the Scepter to 4-2 (leaving behind any other held item you may have) and find the golden door somewhere in that level. It's usually in plain sight about halfway through the level or closer towards the entrance, never being buried in the ground like the Black Market entrance. Once you enter that special golden door, you'll be taken to the City of Gold, full of tons of treasure if you have the means to dig it all out. Since you don't have many opportunities to get a Shotgun before entering Hell, it is recommended that you temporarily skip the golden door in 4-2 in order to use the Scepter to effortlessly kill the shopkeeper guarding the normal exit to that level. Afterwards, you can put the Scepter in the door (also requiring the Hedjet to unlock it) and take the shopkeeper's shotgun with you into 4-3. An exit-guarding shopkeeper also spawns in 4-3 (but NOT 4-4), but it can be difficult to kill him after sacrificing the Scepter in 4-2.
The Temple: Hell Steps
Now that you've managed to get to the City, you're still not done yet. There are two final things you have to do before entering Hell. First, in the City of Gold you must collect the Book of the Dead. It should always be found in the center of the level in an enclosed room and on top of a brown platform that doesn't match the rest of the level's color. Collecting it immediately spawns a revived Anubis, though he lacks his Scepter this time around. Instead, he spawns many red skeletons as long as he's alive, and will follow you into subsequent levels if you don't kill him off. If you recovered a Shotgun like I suggested, he can be easily killed for good. Otherwise, spare bombs still work fairly well against him.
After going to 4-4, you're going to have to kill Olmec a certain way in order to finally enter Hell. While not immediately visible, if you start digging, crushing, or bombing your way through the Chamber, you should eventually see lava and another doorway. Like the Udjat Eye, the Book of the Dead can give you a hint as to the location of that entrance. The closer you are to being vertically in line with the door, the more the book's face squirms. Once you locate the entrance, you're going to have to lure Olmec into that lava near that door. The easiest way to accomplish this is by digging a pit roughly four tiles across and straight down. It can take up to 10 bombs to do this from unaltered terrain, though extra bombs may be located in the upper portions of the Chamber if you need them. Once Olmec falls into the lava, land on top of his head and align yourself with the doorway. When you're close enough, you should be able to enter 5-1, the first level of Hell.
If you've made it this far, you are likely fairly well-equipped, possibly even fulfilling the Trifecta I suggested earlier. If you are, Hell shouldn't be much harder than any Temple level, and the area even provides two helpful things: a bountiful supply of Capes and an item to protect you from fire and lava. If you are not, you're probably going to have a rough time, possibly even dying as there are many new dangers in here that are best handled from a distance:
Vampies are rampant in Hell, being similarly common or possibly even more common than bats in the Mines. Spike shoes or a Shotgun will be your best means for taking them out, though they'll often fall in one of Hell's many spike pits as well.
Imps fly back and forth horizontally while carrying a metal pot containing a magma man. If they are above you, they'll drop the pot and then start chasing you like a bat. Collecting Vlad's Amulet will nullify their first means of attack, possibly even helping you as other enemies are not immune to magma men.
Devils are like blue cavemen with spikes on their heads. Jump attacks obviously don't work against them, and then can charge at you and even destroy terrain if you are horizontally in line with them. Beware their ability to jump high in an effort to skewer you from below.
Succubi appear identical to damsels in the hopes of luring you closer to them, where they can latch on like monkeys and deal damage. Determining which damsels are real and which are fake can be tricky, but succubi audibly cry out for help more often then they're real counterparts. Since both sacrificing and rescue are difficult in Hell, you can also just totally ignore any damsels you see to avoid having to figure out which are real and which are fake.
Spike ball and chain traps are not as smart as crush traps, but their wide range and common generation means that are a common thorn in your side. Bombing them isn't necessarily a great strategy either, as then they'll release their ball to act as a mini-boulder that destroys terrain and crushes many things in its way. It can be handy to carve a path through the level if need be, but be wary of them crushing you or valuable stuff like crates and damsels.
Vlad is a special vampire only ever appearing in 5-1. He lives at the top of his tower and always drops his special Cape upon death, though it's generally too awkward to use to good effect. More useful is his Amulet buried in some terrain near his sleeping place, which will protect you from fire and lava (including magma men) once collecting, even allowing you to swim in lava as if it was water.
Yama is the ultimate final boss of the game, though is easier than Olmec in some ways. Firstly, his two guardians are easy to dispatch and both drop a box of twelve bombs each. Secondly, Yama can only attack you by dropping skulls or magma men. The first is easily avoided if you're on the move or under terrain of some sort, while the second is completely harmless if you stay out of the way or have Vlad's Amulet. Thirdly, Yama is vulnerable to normal things like Shotguns and sticky bombs, which make him very easy to kill so long as you attack from a distance and have cover from his two attacks.
Like the Temple, you're unlikely to be able to sacrifice things in Hell due to obstructive terrain or just an outright lack of altar spawns. You're never going to find hired hands down here, so damsels and shopkeepers remain valuable things to sacrifice. Otherwise, nothing else in Hell that can be sacrificed is really worth the effort, so you might as well not even worry about sacrificing and just focus on getting to the exit before the ghost gets you. Hell levels tend to be more dense and dangerous than other levels, so if you explore at all you're likely to be pushing the ghost more commonly than in other levels. Additionally, even if there is an altar in a Hell level, chances are pretty good that a released spike ball can crush it if it is anywhere in its trajectory.
There is only one type of idol trap in Hell, and it's quite hard (possibly the hardest) but also the most valuable. The idols themselves merely rest on a platform and don't trigger anything when picked up, but they surrounded by a large number of spike ball and chain traps. In general, it is impossible or at least very difficult to recover the idol without destroying at least one or two of the ball and chain traps (which may crush the idol or other things in the process). If you have bombs and patience you can consider going for these idols, but feel free to avoid them if you're already having trouble with the rest of Hell.
Hell: Level Feelings
There are only two in Hell, and neither can appear with the other due to fixed level spawns:
Vlad's Tower levels always and only appear on level 5-1. Somewhere in the level is a large vertical tower housing many vampires, as well as the unique vampire Vlad who carries a unique (but awkward to use) Cape. More important is the valuable Vlad's Amulet, which can protect you from fire and lava, a great benefit in a fiery place like Hell. If you don't have any bombs or some other means to dig through terrain, you're going to have to enter the tower from the very bottom are risk injury from many enemies. Instead, it is far smarter to save at least two or three bombs for Hell so that you can blow open the side of the top of the tower in order to quickly and much more safely collect the Amulet as the most important thing. Everything else in there can be ignored without much issue.
Yama's Chamber always appears as level 5-4, the real final level and boss of the game. Yama and his unique features were described above, but another unique aspect of that level is that it contains many tiki traps guarding Yama's throne, as well as a huge amount of rubies buried throughout his throne.
Final Words on Hell
The only thing you have to do once inside Hell is kill Yama and leave, and then you've beaten the real end of the game, making it To Hell and Back!